Nashville Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson is just two seasons removed from establishing himself as one of the premier goal scorers in the NHL.
After breaking the franchise single-season goals record in 2019 -- in just 58 games, mind you – the 5-foot-9 forward appeared to be entering the prime of his career as a centerpiece of a Predators’ core that believed they had a few more Stanley Cup runs left in them.
But Arvidsson’s durability, or lack thereof, have really become a hot-button issue for the team recently. And while his talent appears to still be there, the 28-year-old is becoming less of a reliable fixture in Nashville’s lineup and more of a liability during key stretches in the schedule.
Arvidsson has never played a full 82-game season in his six-plus years in the NHL. He’s missed 42 games over the last three seasons combined, plus four playoff games this year.
His 94-goal, 170-point, three-season stretch from 2016-2018 set a high bar for the rest of Nashville’s seemingly always underperforming group of forwards (minus Filip Forsberg) to strive for, but it may be time for General Manager David Poile to ask himself if it’s worth having Arvidsson healthy roughly 80 percent of the time.
“There’s no question that he’s had a couple of injuries in the past couple of years that have really hurt him,” Poile said following the team’s exit interviews. “I think of the one Bortuzzo in St. Louis which was just a terrible cross-check. I think that really took him out of a lot of effectiveness.”
Over the last two seasons, specifically, Arvidsson’s role on the team has drastically shifted. He used to make his living at the front of the net where jump screens and battles in the crease were the norm. But he took a beating for nearly every one of the goals he scored, and those hits may finally be taking their toll.
If Arvidsson isn’t crashing the net, can he still be effective in this Predators’ offense? The numbers say no.
In the 85 games since the Bortuzzo cross-check, Arvidsson has 19 goals and 38 points and is producing 0.44 points per game. In the 294 games prior to that injury, he had 108 goals, 201 points and produced 0.68 points per game.
But maybe this is simply a case of playing the strangest two-season stretch of hockey the NHL has ever seen? Maybe Arvidsson will benefit from finally having a normal offseason, getting normal rest and treating any lingering injuries; Poile seems to think so.
“I think he was getting lots of chances but just wasn’t scoring as much,” he stated. “Then unfortunately, he got hurt again and missed some games. He maybe shouldn’t have come back to play at the end…Viktor probably just needed some more time, which he needs now, just to get back healthy…I would really hope and think that he’s a guy that could come back and be part of the solution and not part of the problem next year.”
There’s also the possibility the Predators could move on from Arvidsson through either the expansion draft or through a trade. He likely could fetch a second- or third-round draft pick in return.
Nashville could be forced into the eight skater, one goalie protection route should Poile not want to lose any of Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm, Dante Fabbro and Alex Carrier. If exposed, Arvidsson could be plucked by expansion Seattle, which might see some value in a 28-year-old, two-time 30-goal scorer.
If so, I’m sure Poile wouldn’t mind clearing his $4.25 million salary off the books.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_